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Knowing the Neighborhood Is Crucial to a Restaurant's Success

Chefs are creative people, noted Sue Zelickson, “but most chefs have no idea how to run a business.”

Speaking April 28 during the Retail and Restaurant Summit in Golden Valley, Zelickson, a longtime Twin Cities food writer, James Beard Award winner and founder of the Charlie Awards, wasn’t trying to be harsh—she was being realistic. While they excel in the kitchen, too often the people behind the influx of chef-driven restaurants don’t have the management skills and business acumen to set them up for long-term success.

That’s where an experienced management team comes in, she continued, and the role of research to ensure a restaurant coming into a new neighborhood is actually what the people want. “It has to fit the neighborhood and it has to be easy to get to.”

“I have deep respect for chefs,” agreed Len Ghilani, president of Edina-based hospitality solutions company Ghilani Group. “It’s a tough job and we’ve elevated their status … the situation is, they’re not always business people.”

Ghilani advised would-be owners to ask themselves why people would come to their restaurant and who would miss them if they weren’t there. Then come the details to ultimately deliver the experience people want.

“Any restaurant, any hospitality-oriented concept need to be based around the guest journey,” he said. That means every touchpoint from location and atmosphere to the menu, the service and staff should seamlessly extend from one another.

“And it’s critical,” he added, “you have to fit the culture and every community, every neighborhood even, has a different culture.”

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